Thursday, April 30, 2009

Name That Tune

My little ConMan seems to be the one of my children most likely to have inherited my musical genius. (She says sarcastically.) He loves to sing, loves, loves, loves to play his "rockin' guitar" and loves to listen to music. As long as it's when he wants to listen to it.

Anyway. He's been singing a song lately that neither CPod nor I recognized. It's something about his "dreamgirl" and when I asked where he'd heard it, he just shrugged his shoulders and kept humming. I just let the mystery go until yesterday.

I turned on a TiVoed episode of Scooby Doo for the boys to watch while I was making dinner. They needed some time to wind down, and I needed some time to get stuff done. While soup simmered on the stove, I traipsed back and forth between my room and the laundry room, doing laundry things. And then I heard this:



Yeah. My sweet, innocent little ConMan has been singing the freecreditreport.com commercial.

Now. In my defense, the wunderkind can listen to something once, and sing it back to me three days later. But still. Looks like a DVD purchase of non-commercially infiltrated vintage Scooby Doo is in my near future.

And also, what's up with this, Cartoon Network? Grown up commercials during kids' shows? I think we'll be finding a new source for our Tom&Jerry fix, thank you very much.

(Did you notice what I just did there? I totally removed all the blame for this little incident off of myself by diverting it -- skillfully, if I may say so -- to the evil television executives. So there!)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I've made my bed . . .

. . . and now I must lie in it. Will I never learn?


+

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video

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Elementary Physics

All hail spring time! The warm weather has been great for my sanity, because my children love to be outside. Last night, CPod came home from work and played with the boys outside. ConMan had asked me to teach him how to throw a football. Yeah, good luck with that one, son. We'd better leave that task to Daddy. So they were all outside doing boy things, and I was all by myself inside.

I listened to this:



And while I reveled in the glorious violin skill that is Lara St. John playing the J. S. Bach Sonatas and Partitas, I made real food for dinner -- in other words, not morning sickness friendly-food. Yes, friends, we had more for dinner last night than crushed pineapple suspended in cherry Jell-o. Even better, I slept less than ten hours last night and I am significantly more functional than a zombie this morning. I hesitate to make this declaration, but I think I am finally out of the woods. 12 weeks sounds about right for that, doesn't it?

Now that I am out of the fog and can see my home clearly once again, I am appalled at the level of disorganization that surrounds me. Usually, I can't function like this. What am I talking about? I haven't been functioning! I've been surviving, and, as I'm sure you will all agree, there is a significant difference between functionality and survival.

A brief definition, and explanation:

entropy \ˈen-trə-pē\
noun
1. the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a closed system
2. the degradation of matter and energy to an eventual state of inert uniformity
3. CHAOS, DISORDER, RANDOMNESS

(Thank you very much, Merriam-Webster.com.)

Have you ever heard of Chaos Theory? It's a mathematical theory stating that (and I'm way oversimplifying here) something may look as if it was created randomly, but its creation was determined by certain conditions at the outset. In other words, things that look disorganized and random, usually aren't. The location of each component can be traced in a sort of cause-and-effect genealogy back to the very germ that was its inception. And the most insignificant, miniscule change can have very surprising and far-reaching consequences. Fractals, geometric figures composed of seemingly random iterations of a pattern in smaller and smaller scales, are a very visual example of this (Thank you, wikipedia, for this julia set):

(And thank you, Mrs. Caldwell, for forcing me to learn about fractals in junior high algebra.)

When you consider the world around us, you can find examples of entropy and Chaos Theory everywhere. Think of what happens to your yard if you don't mow the grass, weed the flower beds, and take care of things in general. Dandelions take over, but only until the grass is tall enough to choke them out. It becomes a mess of disorganization and, well, entropy. And though it looks random, every single uninvited plant is there because some bird dropped a seed that it consumed elsewhere and then passed over your garden, or because a gust of wind (also not random, by the way) carried it from its parent plant miles away. Each of these things can be explained, and if not exactly quantified, estimated. To quote a platitude I usually abhor, everything happens for a reason. (Completely unrelated: for a really great example of everything happening for a reason, read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.)

Can you see where I'm going with this? Don't feel bad if you can't -- I'm not sure I can either.

I believe that my children are real-life, honest-to-goodness superheroes. They are agents of The Universe. I wouldn't be surprised to find out they have secret agent code names and use talking Transformers toys to communicate with their superiors. Their special gifts? They are Entropy Specialists. They excel at facilitating the ultimate goal of our physical surroundings: the creation of disorder, the degradation of matter, the achievement of "inert uniformity" (everything is exactly the same, evenly distributed, and not moving). How do I know this?

Oh, I have evidence. I have seen MayDay's unparalleled skill in unfolding and tossing an entire basket of neatly sorted and folded clothing. I swear to you, it's like seeing a fractal on my living room floor.

I have seen G-D0g's amazing ability to evenly scatter 5 trillion lego pieces across the shag carpet of the area rug in our living room. I'm telling you, it looks random, but it isn't random -- it's chaotic, and every move he makes has direction.

I have seen ConMan throw a ball in the house (absolutely not allowed, but it still happens) with such perfect precision that he achieves the maximum amount of mess when projectile meets intended target, be it picture frames on the mantel or a glass jar of Skittles (MayDay's potty treats).

And I have watched in wonder as one child or another sashays through the pile of dirt I have so carefully swept from the huge expanse of lovely cherry planks on our main floor, and manages to scatter every blasted crumb to the far corners of the rooms.

It would seem that through my six week nausea and fatigue-induced sabbatical, that entropy has been achieved in my home. Maybe the secret agents, mission complete, will retire from Disorder Enforcement. Probably not, though. Because I have not given up! I will continue to fight entropy with every fiber of my being! I will refold that laundry, pick up those legos, put those Skittles back in the jar, and resweep that floor. And I will do it all again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, ad infinitum until finally in my celestial mansion dust bunnies do not exist and order becomes the goal of the universe.

Gotta go. Time to start sweeping.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Daffodil Path

When I was born, my parents brought me home to a big, old farmhouse surrounded by a forest of huge oak trees. There was a meadow a short distance from the house that, in the spring, became a carpeted path of yellow blooms -- daffodils, the vestige of generations past, who had done what they could to beautify their little corner of the world.

Another piece of history, and I'll try not to lose you here: daffodils, the most common name for any and all varietals of the Narcissus family, are not native, in any form, to North America. Varieties still grow wild in the Ukraine, and in Wales; they have always been common in East Asia; and the ones most familiar to us are native to Spain and Portugal. The Dutch began cultivating the bulbs they gathered in their travels all over the world, and daffodils were among the first.

Last month, we took a little weekend trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee with some friends of ours. We had a great time with all of our little children (all total, 5 of them, under 6 years old) doing touristy things, swimming in the indoor pool, and playing together. But for me, the highlight of the trip was our foray into the wilderness. The weather was dreary, so our wanderings only went so far as the paved roads would take us, but in the Smokies, you don't have to go far to feel really remote.

I noticed, even out in the woods, there are daffodils all over the place. But they're not native. So I looked a little closer, and if I was lucky, I would spy the crumbled remains of a centuries-old homestead. The people were long gone, the house had fallen down, and even the old stone chimney had tumbled to the ground, but the daffodils remained. Because that's the other thing about daffodils. They will outlast us.


When I was studying European history in preparation for my first "grand tour" of Europe, I found myself feeling envious of all those old places: palaces and cathedrals, monasteries and libraries, towns, even roads, that were older than anything we would ever find in our young nation.

Was I ever wrong. What about places like these? I would say they're even older than the Magna Carta, the paper it was written on, and the building good old King John's uppity barons were in when they proposed it.



And then there are the "newer" places you can find here in the mountains:





Thankfully, a few homesteads like this one have been preserved. But when you walk through, you can feel the pioneer spirit of the people that built it all. You can see the marks in the hand-hewn logs and feel the fatigue of spent muscles as each was carefully shaped to form the ever-important shelters for people and livestock. You can hear the rushing water in the background, hike to the cornfields, follow the low walls of moss-covered river-rock used to mark property boundaries, smell the sweetness of the pure mountain air, and understand why they arrived at this place, and then decided to stay.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my legacy. Even if it's just daffodils, I hope I leave something behind that brings a little joy, a little hope, a little brightness to someone's life. It's a question, I think, we all need to ask ourselves. What will you leave behind?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who needs words?


Easter Sunday afternoon, at my parents' house, all the little ones (except baby Liam, who is, after all, only 7 weeks old) hunted for eggs. Here's the line up, L-R: Adley, G-Dog, ConMan, Sam, Lucy, MayDay, Jordan, Aidan, Eli, Henry. (Adley, Aidan and Eli go with this blog, written by my sister-in-law; Sam, Lucy, Jordan and Henry belong to this blog, written by my sister, MommyJ; the remainders, G-Dog, ConMan and MayDay, belong to me.)

P.S. You should read MommyJ's post from today. It's INFLAMMATORY!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Information Overload

I must confess: I love SiteMeter. I love the map of the world with little points of people, all connected by one thing: they clicked on my blog. I love thinking about all the different backgrounds of all the different people from all over the world (if I'm being supremely optimistic and selective in my map-viewing) who all, somehow, end up on this site.

Imagine how excited I was when I discovered that people can actually reach this tiny little blog by searching for random things on the internet! I am immensely intrigued by this. What are people thinking about? What are they interested in? What things do people search for, and then stumble upon my blog?

And then I was a little dismayed, nay, flabbergasted at the things people search for . . . and then find my site.

For a tamer example, I get a fair number of hits from people searching for "crazy things to do at Disney World" or other things of that nature. And they get sent to this post about our recent experiences at the Happiest Place on Earth.

I also get frequent hits from those searching for "who invented the port-a-potty". I kid you not. They get sent to this post about . . . an experience in a portable toilet. And as a public service to all those who thirst for such information (and apparently there are more of you than I ever imagined), I did a little research: the portable toilet was not invented so much as it evolved in Long Beach, California's shipping yards. Shipbuilders had to traipse all the way back to the dock to use the facilities, and one of them designed a portable toilet they could temporarily place on the deck of the ship under construction, thus increasing productivity of the workers who no longer had to take so much time to go visit the potty. You're welcome.

I also get a lot of hits on this post, and mostly, they are because of image searches . . . I guess because of the embryo picture? You have to admit, it is pretty cool.

But the worst one of all I just discovered the other day. Some poor soul -- I don't know if it was a desperate mother or an 8-year-old who just discovered Google Search on the internet -- searched for, "farts, burps, snot, boogers". And guess where they ended up? Yep. Right here, my friends. You are in elite company. Turns out, I wrote this post a while back about being a mother of boys. And I wrote those four words in one sentence. Of course, I also added in "poop" and "hurl". Because apparently, I am even more disgusting that the strange person who conducted the search in the first place.

Long live SiteMeter! How else would I know how I fit into the strange world of bizarre internet searches? And people think they're anonymous . . .

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Partial Count of Blessings

**Please see the brief update to this post at the bottom, provided by my mom, who remembers these occasions better than I.**

This post was inspired by Mona's post from this past Sunday. If you don't read her blog, you should.


My parents are converts to the church -- or, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I should say that I am, too, but they're the ones that got the ball rolling. They moved several times so that the missionaries who had first contacted them would not be able to find them again. They still did. And when my parents finally decided to pray, the answer was undeniable: this church was the place for them. They were baptized and have never looked back since.

A year or so after their baptism, they attended the Washington, DC temple where they were sealed for time and all eternity. Shortly after that, I was born -- their first. I have reaped the benefits of their decision for my entire life. I have experienced blessings and been able to weather trials that would have knocked me down had I not had the perspective gained with an understanding of eternity. I am grateful that they finally knelt in prayer that day and received the answer they were seeking.

When I was still an infant, my parents took me with them to stake conference, which was a far distance away from where we lived. They arrived late, and the usher showed them in to the last available spot in the entire room: front and center. My mom protested, because, after all, she had a small baby with her who was most certainly going to cry at some point during the meeting, and she would rather be able to leave discreetly than cause a distraction. The usher insisted, and so they sat in the front.

I, of course, began to cry just at the presiding general authority stood up to speak. It was Elder David B. Haight, who was at that time, the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As my mother struggled to gather the things she would need to care for me when she took me out, Elder Haight spoke pointedly from the podium about how distracting it was to hear crying babies, and that mothers with small children should take pains to preserve the sanctity of the meeting. My mother, mortified, quickly made her way down our aisle out of the conference. She did not dare to show her face again.

Nine years later, my mom and I had the opportunity to sing in a choir composed of mothers and daughters. We sang at a regional conference. Elder Haight spoke to us again. This time, I remember it. After the meeting closed, my mother propelled me towards the raised dais as Elder Haight made his way to the stairs to exit. We arrived at the bottom of those stairs just as he did.

"Elder Haight," she said, "this is my daughter." She then gently reminded him of his words at that stake conference so many years before.

Tears sprung to Elder Haight's eyes as he gently leaned down and kissed my forehead. He looked at me, and then my mother, and said that he had regretted the words as soon as he said them. He said he had been hopeful that one day he would have the chance to apologize, and was grateful to be able to do it then.

From that day, I began to take a special interest in Elder Haight. I listened more intently to his talks during General Conference than I had before. I started to pay attention to the details he offered about his life as he taught the Gospel and fulfilled his calling. I watched with sadness as he seemed to shrink before our very eyes towards the end of his life. I noticed how attached he was to his wife as he fondly spoke of their experiences together throughout their lives.

My husband and I struggled for many years with infertility. While we were going through procedure after unsuccessful procedure, my sister, MommyJ, got married and, almost immediately, became pregnant with her first child. He will be 8 next month. In March 2001, when she was very pregnant with Jordan, she received this letter, which is now in my possession:

Dear Sister *******:

Thank you for your letter refreshing my memory of the time I met your mother and older sister when she was a baby, and telling of the challenge and difficulties your sister, *****, has had in trying to conceive a child.

Each Thursday morning the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve hold a meeting in the temple. During that meeting, President Hinckley reads names placed on a special prayer roll and prays for the well-being of those who have particular challenges or infirmities. Your sister was included in that prayer.

You appear to be a kind and sensitive sister, and your family must appreciate your obvious concern for their welfare. Hopefully, the prayers of many will bring about the desired results in your sister and her husband to have the joy of raising a family.

May the blessings of the Lord be with you and your loved ones in all of your righteous endeavors.

Kindest regards,

David B. Haight

I treasure this letter, typed in a huge font and signed in the large, uneven script of an old man who has nearly lost all of his sight. It is evidence to me of many things: that my sister loves me, because I had no idea she contacted Elder Haight. She must have done it the same time my mom and her young women spent one Wednesday evening calling all of the temples in the US and adding my name to the prayer list in each one. It is also evidence that these men who are called of God to lead this church do not just lead in a global sense. They care, and pray for, individual members of the kingdom. Yes, they set policies and curriculum and establish programs and deal with issues that affect all of us in a general way, but the heart of this church is its people, and they do not forget. They plead to the Lord regularly on our behalf.

I am grateful for modern-day revelation. I am grateful for the power of prayer. I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who bore all burdens, even mine. I am grateful for miracles, because do not be mistaken -- I have experienced more than one. And I am never less than awestruck.

Post-Script: My mom doesn't comment via the blog, but she usually e-mails me when she has something to say about what I've written. Here's what she said about this post:

I loved your post on David B. Haight...though he also sought me out right after the conference and apologized on the spot...he found me way down at the end of a hall standing behind one of those rolling bulletin boards. Otherwise, your recollections are on spot.

WB told me that the congregation was incredulous at his remarks...and that she knew he must be an apostle...because he was able to recapture the spirit of the meeting after my hasty departure.

God bless the man. I also love the story about him when he said when he was young, he thought he would have achieved success if he hit one out of the ball park...but he knew true success when his family was gathered round him in the temple. How truly indicative of the man who adored his own family...and was grateful for the sealing ordinances.

I know that is what I am most grateful for...there is no one I would rather be with.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blowing chunks. Hurling. Tossing my cookies. Worshipping the porcelain god. Vomitus maximus. If only.

My posts have been infrequent and unfocused lately. That's because my waking, semi-coherent moments have also been infrequent and unfocused. I am prone to exaggeration, but I'm not doing it right now: I have NEVER in my life been this tired for this long. I've decided to go ahead and adopt the nap schedule I plan to impose on my baby when he/she finally arrives in early November, with a morning nap, an afternoon nap, and an early bedtime. Otherwise, I don't even trust myself to operate heavy machinery, such as my mini-van, sewing machine, or clothes drier.

I was tired with the other pregnancies, but this is different. This is a deeper, more draining exhaustion that causes me physical pain if I don't get enough sleep, which, lately, seems to be about 20 hours out of every 24. My poor children. I hope television isn't as damaging as they say, because I spend a significant portion of my day laying on the floor wrapped up in a blanket so I can change the channel to Noggin or PBS when Tom & Jerry is over.

The fatigue is not helped by the constant nausea. I must confess: I hate to throw-up. Detest, despise, abhor, loathe and execrate. Intellectually, I know that if I could vomit, I might feel better for a little while. But my other issue is that once I've upchucked something, I can't eat it for a while. (12 years ago, I took two bc pills too close together. I ate a Chick-fil-a chicken strips salad for lunch at the mall. And had to puke it up behind a bush outside the entrance to JC Penney because all the stalls were occupied in the bathroom. I didn't eat chicken strips again until last year. And I have to really think about it before I'll eat them still.) The list of things I actually like to eat right now is very short, and I cannot afford to have anything stricken from the realm of possibility:

1. Coke
2. Coke
3. crushed pineapple suspended in cherry Jell-o
4. Nutella on toast
5. Cream of Wheat or Shredded Wheat depending on my mood
6. chocolate milk
7. Coke
8. everything bagels with butter and cheddar cheese
9. Edy's strawberry fruit popsicles
10. Strawberries, apples, oranges, really good grapes. Maybe watermelon. Mmm. Wish it were in season. (MommyJ, where did you find yours, and was it any good?)
11. Grapefruit with honey
12. Super-crispy bacon
13. Campbell's Homestyle chicken noodle soup. Or ramen noodles, if I'm out of the good stuff.

So, instead, I just run to the toilet several times a day and dry heave enough to pee in my pants. That's WAAAAAY better than spewing, right? Right.

Mercifully, my mother and my husband have decided that it's important for the rest of my family to eat even though I really don't feel like it, and they have taken on nearly all food-related duties. Thank goodness -- what with the tv consumption, I'm downright neglectful.

In other news, I've also decided to just wear pajamas all the time. If the bottoms don't have a pattern, I think I can get away with wearing them in public. And pjs are pretty cheap, right? Because I just don't have the energy to do laundry, and I would really prefer disposable clothing right now. Convenience and expedience, that's my motto. Besides, I'm not spending any money on groceries. That leaves a whole bunch left over for wear-and-toss jammies.

Speaking of tossing, today, I disposed of a container of leftover chili by transferring it to a more size-compatible sealed container and putting the whole thing in the trash. Because I just can't take chili right now, even it if is CPod's award-winning recipe. Blech.

That's all for now. I'm way into overtime for the afternoon nap. I just started a movie for my kids and I think I can steal away to my bedroom for some sleep with two eyes closed instead of just one.